Every time I see Mr. Willie I thank God he is no relation of mine. He is the only man boarder in the house, which is another thing to be thankful for; but, though he is hard to stand, he is nearly sixty and a human being, and I ought to remember what I forget and yesterday I didn’t remember. He was the only son of his mother and should have been a daughter, and in trying to make him one his maternal parent succeeded better than in anything else she ever attempted, Miss Bettie Simcoe says—and she ought to know, being his first cousin. His business is telling people what they don’t want to hear; and, though he doesn’t do any work, a hound dog couldn’t run a rabbit down quicker than he can a piece of gossip, and when he isn’t sitting on somebody’s front porch fanning himself with a palm-leaf fan, from which he is never separated in summer, he is down at the drug-store hearing and being heard. He thinks he is handsome, and he is as proud of his pink cheeks as a goose of her gander, and I’m sure he puts something on them on cool days. If he could wear some blue ribbon on his sandy hair and have trousers and coats to match his fancy vests he would be perfectly happy. As a man he is a poor job, but as a Miss Nancy he is perfect, and when yesterday I came in from my ride he made me so mad that I popped out something I shouldn’t have popped and before I knew I was going to do it.
He was sitting on the porch when I came up, fanning as hard as he could fan, and as I went by he stopped me. “I would advise you to be more careful when you go in wading at the creek, Miss Kitty,” he said, “It isn’t customary for young ladies in Twickenham Town to do such things and—”
“And where I came from it isn’t customary for gentlemen to follow young ladies and see what they do,” I said, and the minute the words were out I knew I shouldn’t have said them, for his face got as red as a beet and he jumped up and walked into the house.
I don’t know that he really followed Sallie Sclater, who’s a visiting girl, and myself to see if we went wading, but we certainly went and had a good time doing it, though we had to dry our feet with my petticoat. But from the way his face went he must have made it convenient to walk in that direction and must have seen us, or he wouldn’t have known anything about our going, as we were careful to look around before we took off our shoes and stockings. I can’t endure him, but he is nearly sixty and I am only sixteen, and I shouldn’t have spoken as I did; and possibly because I was so happy over Father’s coming I told him last night that if I had said anything I shouldn’t I hoped he would forget it and I, too, would forget what had been said. And that, of course, I knew gentlemen in Twickenham Town never did anything gentlemen shouldn’t, and that my quickness of speech was always getting ahead of me; and he looked so relieved that I am perfectly certain he followed us. But, anyhow, he was very pleasant last night and told a scream of a story about poor little Miss Lily Lou Eppes when she thought she had a beau. She had almost landed him when he got away. He’s never been heard from since.